Cambodia : Last Sunrise at Angkor Wat.

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” Have cash – ‘dollahs ?” asked the unabashed immigration officer on arriving at Siem Reap airport despite having a visa that had been paid for. Such was the expression of shock on our face that it looked as if we didn’t hear a word! Fortunately, that worked in our favour and that’s how we got welcomed to Cambodia.

The gleaming floors of ‘just done’ airport were yet to be opacified by the suitcase wheels constantly running in and out of it. Practically store-less, non symbolic and nascent quality of it gave very little of what to expect outside of it. We walked out into a warm night to an orderly row of men sitting on haunches waiting for their respective guests; one of whom got up to greet and took us to a car without anymore words. Through a silent ride to hotel we didn’t see much besides hotels on either side and what looked like the highest concentration of Korean restaurants outside Korea! The hotel staff at Shinta Mani welcomed us over-enthusiastically, as if making up for their silent chauffeur, in a lobby that didn’t exactly look like a hotel lobby. We silently exchanged looks – too tired for words or reciprocating any enthusiasm this close to midnight. We were handed a glass of bubbly each, the effervescence of which definitely matched that of hosts! The unwelcome thought of waking up at four next morning (that was in another four hours) kept popping up. We were, luckily, quickly escorted to our room via a flight of stairs (no elevators!!) to fourth floor and I felt sorry for one who carried our ten days worth of luggage.

The walk through an extremely hostel-like corridor brought back the feeling of returning to college after vacations (only someone else carried the luggage this time) and with all the tropical action taking place on ceiling above and the walls beside, I was literally sprinting across the corridors thereby minimising any possibility of a chance interaction with the creepy crawlies.

And full of fatigue, fear and doubt I asked myself the oft asked question in situations likewise, “WHAT AM I DOING HERE?”

 

 

I did nothing but remind myself.

 

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“To watch a magnificent last sunrise of 2015 against the backdrop of world’s largest religious monument – is why we are here.” Just like thousands of others.

 

For partaking in a most natural, most predictable, perhaps most crowded AND such celebrated event we were woken up at quarter to 4am(-ish) joining the other guests for a quick ‘pre-breakfast’ and coffee. While Adi scooted back to room having forgotten something (that happens a lot!) I waited for him to share my coffee with. Just then, watching me waiting somebody called me a dutiful wife for doing that. My eyes quickly swept the area looking for Adi thinking ‘okay, where’s Adi now, he has to hear this!!’ He wasn’t there. But I ‘dutifully’ narrated verbatim whatever he missed. And with that start we drove through one of a kind 5am traffic to stand waiting for the break of a new dawn, the last of twenty fifteen.

The single most popular sunrise watching spot – the West pond/west gate – at the Angkor temple complex was right away dismissed by our tour guide, for being too crowded with tourists (hellooo!) and we sat outside the temple complex facing a pond (which is actually a moat) with few other tourists nibbling on apples and bananas and sandwiches while the sun took it’s own sweet time to come out and people continued to stream into the temple. The sky was completely cloudless; not the best kind for a sunrise ‘show’.

 

As we waited, chit-chatted, yawned, set up cameras, tripods, thought about being in bed, more and more people squeezed in, dogs waiting to be fed followed. Some dared to go closer to the edge of pond, one such dropped a bag in the pond and the crowd oohed in reaction clutching their bags and belongings tighter.

 

 

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The first image that anybody sees is probably a sharp silhouette of the temple (that appears more and more distinct as you keep looking at it) in the night sky) and torch lights of people walking in to the temple (on the left of the picture)

 

 

 

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And then slowly but surely an orange glow starts to appear behind the temple making a lovely contrast with the purple of night sky reflecting in a perfectly calm pond.

 

 

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Most stars begin to disappear, leaving behind the morning star and few others to brave the sun. The wind heralding the sun stirs the pond vanishing it’s mirror.

 

 

 

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With changes so subtle so easily missed by bland human senses – camera works it’s magic, capturing to recapitulate later.

 

 

 

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The clock ticks, contrasts weaken. The sky is more blue than purple and the pond begins to calm to a photographer’s delight.

 

 

 

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The cameras begin to click incessantly as the glow deepens.

 

 

 

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And then the orange of sun that was so neatly contained around the temples explodes and spreads over…

 

 

 

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…driving the purple at corners.

 

 

 

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leaving no traces of darkness.

 

 

 

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It is morning! Start of a day and culmination of an event.

 

 

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As the sky and pond are unified in a softer blue the early risers began to gather their paraphernalia and either move back to hotel of move forward to temple hopping.

 

 

 

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That’s a memory of us, watching the last sunrise of 2015! :)

 

While most people retreat to their hotels to have breakfast after watching sunrise some continue with the trip…as did we. We first moved to see the iconic west gate sunrise.

 

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Arguably the most sought after first picture of the day!

 

 

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Ripples distorting the almost perfect reflection thanks to somebody’s not-so-well planted feet in the pond.

 

When I look at these pictures over a year later now, it feels so tranquil and like an event worth all the miles travelled and all the ‘holiday sleep’ lost. But I’m sure thats not how I felt at that moment. It definitely wasn’t tranquil with all the crowd gathered shoulder to shoulder and on top of each other, with all the constant clicks, the eagerness and anxiety of getting a proper view and capturing the moment and capturing it well. And the deceiving pictures say none of it. The old man said it right, ”The photograph eventually replaces the memory that is supposed to be” while advocating documentation of travels in words. But then, its more about being a part of such an event much like watching a match in a stadium that is knowingly viewed way better on a tv screen. In a way I’m glad to have ‘been there, done that’. As to whether it was worth all the trouble and time, there’s only one way to find out.

 

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By choosing to be one of them!

 

 

I hope you’re not too intimidated. 😉

More inspiration later.

 

 

Comments

  1. Santosh says:

    Hi,beteji, nice to see you in your good old writing mode after a long break . I was missing your posts so much.Every minute detail of sunrise is giving the first hand experience.Very beautifully described.Good job done dear. Keep it up .

  2. Puneet says:

    Hey!

    Where were you lost dearie? Nice snaps…
    Morning sunrise as fresh as a daisy!!!

    Thanks…Puneet

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